Guide to Rules Governing Lawyers Advertising Services in the Media

The rules for governing lawyers advertising services in the media has transformed since the 1977 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977) Prior to this ruling most states like Arizona, did not allow lawyers to advertise their services in newspapers, magazines, radio, or television. Lawyers were allowed however, to modestly advertise by handing out their business cards. It was believed by early lawyers in Great Britain that legal services was a “public service” and not “a means to making a living” H. Drinker, Legal Ethics, 210-211 (1953). This belief changed in 1976, when Bates placed an advertisement in the Arizona Republic.

According to the American Bar Association (ABA) model rule 7.2 “a lawyer is permitted to advertise [t]heir services through public media…” Lawyers continue to be cautioned by their peers so as to not to violate the professional conduct within their state. While following the ABA model rules, lawyers are required to follow the standards set-forth by their state. Each state may vary the most common standards are generally the same for each state. For example, a lawyer can advertise general information such as their name, the name of the firm, the location of the firm, phone number, and the type of specialized services they offer.

The media advertisement should be, in accordance to each state, made by a member of the firm, the lawyer who actually performs the services. Some states require lawyers to maintain a copy of the advertisement for a period time. For instance, in the state Arkansas, lawyers are required to keep a copy or a recording for a period of five years. AR rule 7.2(b) While other states may only require lawyers to keep a copy of the media advertisement for two years.

There are specific limitations for lawyers advertising services in the media. Again each state may vary. Following the ABA model rule 7.2 lawyers are prohibited from making testimony or endorsements to the public. Lawyers are expected to pay reasonable cost for advertising and lawyers are prohibited from paying referral fees to persons recommending the lawyer’s services. In addition to paying reasonable cost for advertising in the media, lawyers are required to include the term “Advertising Materials” at the end of the recorded communications. The media advertisement must be presented in a professional manner and while lawyers themselves, can advertise their specialized services, they cannot hire or pay individuals such as actors or actress, to advertise the lawyer’s services. Moreover, paralegals and other non- lawyer members of the firm are unauthorized to advertise for the supervising lawyer.

While the rules governing lawyers advertising services in the media have been modified since Bates v. State Bar of Arizona (1977), the objective of maintaining the ethical integrity of the legal profession has remained the same. The rules provide that lawyers and members of their firm adhere to the governing ABA model rules and the rules set-forth by their state. To ensure that the proper rules and guidelines are followed it is recommended that lawyers confirm with the Bar Association within their practicing state before they advertise their services in the media.


Arkansas Bar Association. (2003). Rule 7.2 advertising. AR rule 7.2(b). Retrieved July 17, 2009, from

H. Drinker. (1953). Legal Ethics. Columbia University Press, New York. Retrieved July 17, from (n.d). US Supreme Court Center. Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977). Retrieved July 17, 2009, from

State Bar (2005). State bar associations by state. Retrieved July 17, 2009, from